The House That Walked on its Nails

Once upon a time, a girl and her mother were sleeping side by side in the guest room of a cousin’s house. The house had been in the family for generations.

It was dark in the guest room, but not scary, even though there were many new sounds to be wondered about.

 What was that noise?” The girl asked

 “That was the wind in the trees.” Mother said.

It was quiet then, except for the sweet sound of the wind whispering through Aspen.

The girl was almost asleep and so was mother.

“Uhaa! What was that sound?” The girl asked as she snuggled closer to mother.

“Oh, that? Well, that was all the hens scooting over to make room for the hen that was the last on duty.”

The girl thought about all the sleepy chickens until she felt sleepy too.

Until a creak creak creaking sound woke her right up.

“What was that?”

 Mother listened and said, “Oh, that’s just the house walking on its nails.” And then she snored. She was fast asleep.

The girl did not know houses could walk, much less walk on nails. She began to imagine all the houses picking up their skirts and walking all over the countryside in the moonlight. She was a little worried that they would not find their way back to the right place by morning.

Before she knew it the rooster crowed. The birds in the trees began to sing all the morning songs they knew as they darted through the air and swooped low for breakfast. The smell of freshly made biscuits wafted throughout the house..

The girl remembered that the house had been walking on its nails all night so she ran to the window to see if everything was where it should be.

 Her relative’s house was right where it was the day before, and as far as she could tell, all the other houses were where they should be too.

At breakfast, she asked her mother how the houses knew how to get back to their own yards after walking on their nails all night.

After a moment of bewilderment, mother realized what her daughter was referring to. She laughed so hard she snorted coffee through her nose.

When she stopped laughing, she said, “Oh sweetie,” when I say a house walks on its nails, I just mean it settles in, you know. Old houses do that.”

All the relatives laughed and clinked their dishes merrily as they enjoyed breakfast and thought about what a sight it would be if the old houses of the neighborhood picked up their skirts and tiptoed over the hills by the light of the moon.

All About Petunias

I want to know everything there is to know about Petunias. I want to know their species and subspecies, what kind of soil they like, and if they come back year after year or if they have to be planted every spring.

I had a dream the other night about a woman who was from the beginning of time on earth. She wasn’t old and grandmotherly, but I knew she was from the ancient past. She had a bunch of Petunias in her hand and told me that if I would keep these flowers with me at all times they would prevent illness and protect me from ill will. She also told me it was time to speak up. But she didn’t tell me what I should speak up about.

That dream wasn’t the first time Petunias had caught my attention.

At the end of one summer day,  a long time ago when I lived in Mount Holly on Peppercorn street I was sitting on the stoop watching my kids play in the front yard. There was a warm breeze. Evening had begun to cast soft shadows over the Rododendrums. All of a sudden  I noticed a fragrance so subtle that I wondered if I had imagined and when I looked for its source I saw a  dark purple Petunia waving gently in the breeze. I had planted those flowers in the spring but they weren’t anything special to me. I just thought they were pretty.

Now here was this flower, standing tall and leggy as if trying to watch a parade go by and it seemed like she was a friend; it seemed like she approved of the situation and she nodded gracefully as night fell in the little garden. It seemed like she was saying, “All is well, all is well.”

I hadn’t remembered that special moment between me and a flower until the dream. Now I was curious.

I learned that Petunias grow best in ground that is equal parts sand, silt, and clay. The way they arrange their petals so carefully around a pistil makes them seem cultured and ladylike. You wouldn’t know by looking that any of them grow wild and feed Buckeyed butterflies all summer long, and you wouldn’t suspect that this demure little plant that grows in hanging baskets and window boxes will take over if they are free to grow as they please.

I read that the essence of Petunia can be used to keep one’s mind keen and alert and can lift a sagging spirit. The Inca and the Mayans believed that they chased away evil spirits and would only grow in places where the atmosphere is positive. Petunias can also, somehow, help a person find her voice.

The woman in the dream told me to keep them with me and to find my voice. I suppose I’ll have to keep digging for information, esoteric or otherwise, on this mysterious little flower.

As for finding my voice, I cannot, for the life of me, imagine what I can say that the Petunias do not already whisper every summer to anyone with the sensibilities to listen.


The child’s dress is handmade from cotton material that was pink 75 years ago. Its tiny buttons go through tiny, handstitched buttonholes all the way from the bottom to the little scalloped collar.

A pair of black, high top baby-shoes hang by their  laces around the neck of the dress on the hanger. There is 75 year old mud on the bottoms.

How absolutely precious it is to me, a grandmother, to think of my own mother when she wore that baby’s dress and those black shoes.

If I could, I would go back and tell her what a good girl she is. I would pick her up and show her a mirror so she could look deeply and squint in the right direction in order to seee the princess in the looking glass.

I would hold her and tell her I’m sorry for breaking her heart as I have done so many times over the years.

And I would ask her to share a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with me on the front porch of a house that doesn’t exist anymore.

We would sit there, together, and forget the time of day.